Breathwork has a moment. It became a popular topic over the past years, and it is key in yoga, Pilates, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Techniques, conscious fitness programs, and mediation, just to mention a few fields of use. In yoga, the control of breath is called Pranayama, which is a fundamental part of the lessons.
“Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathing is simple. Isn’t it?
Most people take breathing for granted. It’s something that comes naturally. Yet while you may think that it’s easy, there’s a fundamental difference between conscious breathing and the respiratory reflex (breathing on autopilot). In our modern society, most people chronically over-eat, under-sleep, and over-breathe. Inhaling is related to energizing the body by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and activating the parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn calms the mind and relaxes the body.
Did you know? With conscious, deep breathing, 6-10x more air flows into your body than with shallow breathing?
The quality of breath depends on a number of factors including:
• Posture: how much space is available for the lungs
• Chronic stress
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Dietary habits
• Daily temperatures
• Physical condition: regular exercise, especially cardio training
“Regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
The benefits of conscious breathing practice:
• reduces anxiety and negative emotions and fights depression
• lowers stress levels
• lowers blood pressure
• enhances respiratory functions
• detoxes the body
• elevates serotonin and endorphin levels
• improves concentration and awareness
Did you know? 70% of the waste of your body leaves with exhale? Another 20% leaves through your skin and 10% through the digestive system.
Three simple conscious breathing exercises
Before we start, please keep in mind your starting position could be anything you find comfortable, as long as the spine is nicely aligned and the lungs have space to breathe. You can sit on a pillow with your legs crossed, stand or lie down.
1) Balance Breathing
When: Any time of the day, because this exercise will calm you down when stressed and wake you up when tired.
How: Take the starting position, then inhale to a count of four and exhale to a count of four. Repeat this 10x.
Advanced option: increase the count to five or six.
Why? By breathing at half the speed you normally do, this technique will bring your nervous system to balance. It will help you calm your mind, and when feeling tired, it will optimally energize.
2) Wake-up breathing
When: as part of your morning routine or before exercising.
How: Choose a your starting position, preferably a sitting. Inhale, then exhale sharply through your nose, as by sneezing (keep your upper body motionless so that only the area of the navel moves). After you force the air out, relax and let the partial inhale happen all on its own. One cycle is 20 rounds sharp exhales and a rest-phase for a few breaths. Repeat the cycle 3x.
Advanced option: Increase the round to 50 sharp exhales.
3) Calm-down breathing / Full Yogic Breath Pranayama
When: when feeling stressed or anxious or before going to sleep
How: This technique is practiced in four parts:
1: Place your left palm on your navel, inhale to a count of four, exhale to a count of 4. Bring your attention to the area of your belly and observe what is happening – the pathway of your breath entering your body by your nose, and how the belly lifts and gets flat by each breathing cycle. Repeat this for six breaths.
2: Now place your right hand on the center of your chest, breathe slowly and deeply. Observe what is happening – the pathway of your breath entering your body by your nose, and how the chest expands and gets flat by each breathing cycle. Repeat this for six breaths.
3: Keep the right hand on your chest, and place the left palm on your navel. Breathe slowly. Observe both areas underneath and around your hands. Repeat this for six breaths.
4: Release your hands and come back to natural breathing.
These three pranayama exercises are really very simple, and as you can see, you don’t need any specific tools other than your own body, and a few spare minutes a day. You can apply them occasionally when needed, to fight stress.
So why don’t you give a try right away and see how you feel?
Wellbeing is not only about having a strong body, but also about keeping your mind sane.
Share this article with your friends and colleagues, and raise awareness together for mental health.
Read more about mindful breathing practice: https://balanceandcore.com/2019/05/12/detox-your-mind/